Excerpt for All the Better to Love You With:
(BASED ON RED RIDING HOOD):
"Put your hands up!"
Was that a bullhorn? The cop's voice coming from behind Mandy Hood's car was extremely loud.
Why would he have followed her into her grandmother's driveway? And why did he have to yell, given she was parked? He could've just walked up and used his regular voice. Besides, it was a gorgeous April day, so shouldn't he be checking out the local donut shop or something?
She had to see what this guy looked like, so she glanced into the rearview mirror while flipping her long hair out of her eyes. The officer's car with the lights going sat behind the little red convertible she drove. Both of the cop's doors hung open with guns peeking out between the car's body and the open door, aimed right in her direction.
"I did nothing wrong," she yelled. "You made me speed and I couldn't pull over after I saw your lights and heard your siren. Those things are loud, as is your bullhorn. I should sue you for breaking my eardrums."
Always turn it around and blame someone else. That was Mandy's motto. It had worked in the past, so why not try it again.
Her cell phone rang. She leaned down and grabbed it from between the seats, checking the caller identification. A smile lifted her lips as she pressed talk and put it to her ear. "Oscar. You missed me, didn't you?" Her social life came first, not caring about the cops behind her. They certainly could wait.
"Absolutely, Babe," Oscar said. "Where are you? We're supposed to go out in an hour. You're not home and I need to know what to wear."
She glanced into the rearview mirror once more. "I don't think I'll be able to meet you tonight."
"What? We have a date."
"Hang up the phone and drop your keys on the ground," the bullhorn bellowed. "Get out of the car with your hands up. This is your last warning."
"What was that?" Oscar asked.
Mandy cleared her throat, her eyes darting to the rearview mirror once more. "I'm bringing Granny Hood a birthday present."
"Granny Hood? She lives west of Austin. You're there?"
"Yeah. I forgot to tell you I was coming out here. Granny's turning 72 today and I thought it would be nice to visit her. Lookie…gotta run. Some cop thinks I'm cute or something. I'll put him in his place. Now, for tonight, wear that cool blue polo shirt and those new jeans you just bought. You'll look great. Then find someone else to date. You have my permission."
"I do?" He sounded like a kid in a candy store. "Thank you, Red."
Red Riding Hood was her nickname, from her last name of Hood and her red hair.
"Tootles." She ended the call, watching the action in the rearview mirror. She put down her phone and unbuckled her seatbelt. Once she opened her door and stood up, she turned toward the men, dropped the keys on the concrete driveway, and raised her hands. "What's going on?"
"Turn around!" the same male voice yelled, not using the bullhorn. He had a smooth southern accent, deep but sincere. She wondered if he was as handsome as his voice, suddenly knowing how she could get out of any ticket. She just had to flirt with this guy, once he came out from behind that door, and could get him to reconsider pulling in behind her car…well, her other grandmother's car. Granny Peach lived near her parents' home in Dallas, while Granny Hood lived in this backward town of Angel Springs, west of Austin. She was on her way to visit Granny Hood, her dad's mother.
"I said, turn around!" the cop yelled. "Are ya deaf?"
Arrogance. She didn't like that one bit, handsome or not.
Her hands flew to her hips as she whipped her hair back from her face. "I'm not deaf. I'm thinking. Why would I turn around? Are y'all going to shoot me in the back or something? I'd rather be shot in the front so I can see it coming."
They were definitely two men. But they were laughing at her?
"Put your hands up and turn around," the same voice yelled. "We won't shoot unless you don't do what we tell you to do."
"Fine." She rolled her eyes and lifted her arms a bit higher, her pink tank top showing off some of her stomach and skinny jeans. While trying not to fall off her pink stilettos, she inched around, turning her back toward the two men. "Is this better?" She was certain they were just checking her out.
All this for speeding? She hadn't even been going over the speed limit much, and wouldn't have been speeding at all if the cop hadn't been behind her, trying to pass.
"Back up," the voice said.
Mandy took a few steps backward, her hands still in the air.
"Good. Now get on your knees."
She turned her head so her voice would go over her shoulder. "Do you want me to do the Hokey Pokey, too, while I'm at it?"
"No, just get on your knees and lose the attitude." His voice came out as almost a snarl. Tough crowd.
"Creep," she muttered as she knelt down slowly. "This had better not scuff up my stilettos or you're going to pay for a new pair."
"Don't worry. It's concrete and if you go slowly enough, they won't get scuffed."
Whose voice was that? It was different from the first, with barely an accent. Probably married. No single man knew or cared about stilettos.
"Now lie, face down, on the concrete." It was the first voice again, the hot southern arrogant one.
She turned her head slightly. "What? And get my hundred-dollar tank and two hundred dollar jeans dirty? I hope y'all have a dry cleaner close by. Besides, if you make me break a nail, I am suing."
"You won't break a nail." Another chuckle. "Just do what I ask and we won't shoot."
"All for speeding to let you pass me by?" she muttered. "Man, this is one backward Texas town. Angel Springs isn't as nice a town as it sounds." She moved her hands to the concrete and carefully lay down on the hot pavement.
"Put your hands out to the side and cross your ankles," the sensuous voice said.
She complied, trying to remember the phone number for her parent's lawyer. As soon as this misunderstanding was resolved, she was so letting that lawyer in on this problem.
"Don't move." The voice got closer. "We have guns trained on you."
"Y'all take your speeders seriously down here, don't you?" she asked.
"Quiet." The hot southern voice was right behind her.
Her hands were pulled to her back, making her scream out in pain. "Ow! You're a sadist! That hurts!"
"Quiet. You have the right to remain silent…"
Mandy tuned him out as he slapped handcuffs onto her wrists. She'd seen enough cop shows on television to know her Miranda rights. Since he had a gun, she stayed quiet.
"Are you done yet?" she asked the man when he finished speaking.
"Yep. Stand up."
"How can I do that? With my hands behind my back, my balance is all messed up."
Strong hands gripped her elbows and pulled her to her feet, bringing her eye-to-eye with the most handsome man she'd ever seen. His short brown hair framed a handsome face and a pair of piercing blue eyes. The officer wore a badge pinned to his shirt, etched with the word 'Sheriff.'
Wow. Speaking of being at the right place at the right time. "Are you the sheriff?" A grin lifted her lips. She could handle this guy and would probably be out of the cuffs in five minutes, if she could flirt right.
An older man stood to the good-looking man's right. He was probably the man who'd commented on her stilettos because he looked married. She glanced down. Yep. Wedding ring. But no ring on the sheriff's hand. Good.
The handsome man nodded toward the red convertible. "Deputy, search her car. I'll hold onto this one."
"So you're the sheriff?" she asked Mr. Hot Southern Man, leaning closer. "You didn't answer me before."
He took a step backward. "Yes. You need to stay quiet. I don't make small talk with prisoners."
What an insult. "I'm not a prisoner. What am I being charged with?"
His blue-eyed gaze studied her as he ticked the charges off on his fingers. "Grand theft auto, speeding, evading arrest, and answering a phone call when you were supposed to obey an officer of the law." He pointed toward the red convertible. "This isn't your car." His slight Texas accent made her realize she wasn't in Dallas anymore. She and her family were originally from Iowa, but she'd picked up the phrase 'y'all' to fit in.
Mandy let the charge sink in. "Answering a phone call? Is that even an offense?"
"No, but it tells me you have no respect for the law. Do you have any weapons or anything that would hurt me in your pockets?"
"No. My pockets are empty."
"Let me just find out." He patted her down, still talking while his deputy watched. "Little lady, we do have rules down here and no matter where y'all think you're from, you're not gettin' away with any of this in my area. Do you understand?"
She bit her lips, wanting to laugh at him. When he found out how rich her family was, he'd change his tone.
The door to the small home opened and Granny Hood headed out, using her walker. Dressed in an outdated blue paisley dress and tan slippers with messy gray hair, the old woman looked like she'd just awakened. Mandy wouldn't be caught dead looking like that, even in private.
"What's going on here?" Granny Hood asked. "Whatcha doing with my granddaughter?"
The sheriff grabbed Mandy's arm and made her take a step forward. "Edna, ma'am. This young lady." He nodded toward Mandy. "Is she your granddaughter?"
"Yes, she is, Sheriff Wolfe." Granny Hood walked down the two stairs of her front porch, catching her breath when she reached the bottom. "Why are you here?"
This was the oddest thing Mandy had ever experienced. Her grandmother knew the sheriff? Did she know him because she'd been taken into custody, too? Mandy studied the woman's appearance and expression. No way. She was as honest as the day was long.
"You know him?" Mandy asked her grandmother.
Sheriff Wolfe turned toward Mandy with a sigh. "We used to go to the same church when I lived out here, but I haven't seen Edna for a long time."
"Why are you here?" Granny Hood asked Mandy.
"It's your birthday. I borrowed Granny Peach's car to bring you a birthday present. She lets me drive it because she says my car embarrasses her." Mandy nodded to the back seat of the car. "That picnic basket is for you. I wanted to get you something you could use and not something you'd just have to dust."
"Such a thoughtful granddaughter," Granny Hood said with a smile. "Thank you, Amanda."
"Can you get him to let me go?" Mandy whispered to her grandmother. "Since you know him and all?"
Granny Hood looked up at Sheriff Wolfe's face. "I'm sure it's a misunderstanding."
The sheriff glanced toward Mandy before returning his gaze to her grandmother. "We have to charge her with stealing this car, at least. She didn't even pull over when my lights and sirens were going, but sped up."
"Mandy?" Granny Hood asked. Her voice was strict and Mandy knew she was heading for trouble.
She bit her lips, knowing she had to tread lightly. "There was no place to pull over, or I'd have gone down into a deep ditch and probably rolled the car. So I drove here and pulled in, trying to let him pass. What else was I to do?"
Granny stared at the sheriff. "Brad…I mean Sheriff Wolfe, what do you think?"
Mandy thought it over for a split second. "Brad?" She spun toward the sheriff. "You're Brad Wolfe? Does that mean you're the Big Bad Wolf? My nickname is Red Riding Hood. This is hilarious. What big eyes you—"
"Quiet," he said with a sigh.
This was just too weird, making her chuckle. She'd even brought her granny a picnic basket. The only thing she didn't have was the red-caped hood over her head, but her hair would do the trick.
Granny Hood went to the side of the car, where the deputy had placed the picnic basket on the back. "Let me see that." She opened the lid, her wrinkled face breaking into a smile. "You remembered." She lifted her eyes to the sheriff. "She brought me homemade bread, jam, and peanut butter, along with some banana bread and apple bread with apple butter. You have to stop over later and taste this. You'd love how Mandy cooks. She's single, too."
Mandy wanted to protest because the sheriff was so hateful, but knew her grandmother would keep trying to fix her up. Besides, if she did argue, she'd probably end up admitting she didn't actually make any of those items.
Mandy had bought all of it in specialty stores, removed the plastic wrappers, and had rewrapped the items in colored cellophane. But she wasn't about to tell her grandmother she'd cheated. The woman had tons of money in the bank, but few people knew it. Granny Hood was the type of person who remembered details, rewarding those who were nice to her. She also didn't like deception and lying was just that.
Besides, Mandy just had to get on Granny Hood's good side, to get her money when she died. The picnic basket was meant to do the trick, but her plan wasn't quite going over as well as she'd hoped, thanks to the mean old sheriff.
"Single or not," the sheriff said, his hand still on Mandy's arm. "This little cook has to go to jail." He inched Mandy closer to his car.
"Call Dad," Mandy yelled, while being hauled off toward the sheriff's car. "Happy birthday, Granny Hood."
"Thank you and thank you for the present."
"My clothes are in the trunk," she shouted to her grandmother. "I don't think I'll be in jail for long and then we'll celebrate. I'll take you out for dinner."
"We'll just see about that," Sheriff Wolfe said. After opening the back door of the sheriff's car, he helped her inside. He pulled the seatbelt over her, buckled it, and shut the door.
Anger seeped through her. She'd been treated like a common criminal when she'd done nothing wrong. She wasn't a criminal and didn't deserve to be handcuffed or treated badly. She couldn't even try to flirt her way out of the situation from behind the metal grille, just making her angry.
She looked down at her pink stilettos, which now were scuffed, revealing black plastic under the pink color. She couldn't believe how cheap they looked, considering she'd paid over three hundred dollars for them.
Mr. Hot Southern Man was in so much trouble. She didn't care how handsome he was. He was going to pay.
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